The Peruvian Adventure, Part 1: From Boston to Bogota

My trip to Peru was an adventure before I even left the ground in Boston on March 3 (but really March 4, because of my first of two snowstorm-induced delays). But before I get into the details, here’s how I ended up in Latin America in the first place.

It really begins with the first guy I dated in Boston, Paul, who, one night, hosted dinner and introduced me to his notoriously brilliant college roommate, Dan. Recently completing medical school in Philadelphia, Dan was moving back to Boston for residency at MGH and bringing a +1 with him: his girlfriend Naomi. My own relationship with Paul was good while it lasted, but it wouldn’t last the year, in contrast to Dan and Naomi’s, which had already endured long distances and stretches of time. Even from that first night when I barely knew them, it was clear that these two were going to get married.

Five years later, I found an myself in an airport heading to Peru for their wedding.

I always thought my first trip to a Spanish-speaking country would have been to Chile or Argentina, because no matter how deeply I get into technology and retail, I remain a comparative literature major at heart, and some of my favorite poets and authors are from those countries (Neruda, Borges, and Cortazar).

Peru hadn’t entered my realm of consciousness as a place to travel until I got invited to Dan and Naomi’s wedding. But I figured if I was going to make the trip to Peru for this wedding, I was going to have to “do it big,” and considered my options of things to do before or after the wedding. Hiking the Inca Trail was more my speed than doing an ayahuasca retreat and better for my health than sitting on beach and eating my way through every one of the world-class restaurants in Lima. So in October, I signed up for a trip with an Inca Trail tour operator, and before I knew it, it was March.

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My trip to Peru was supposed to begin on March 3 at 11:45PM with a flight out of Boston to Bogota. My trip to Peru was supposed to end on March 13 at 6:30PM with a flight to Boston from New York. My trip to Peru actually began on March 4 at 6:00AM with a flight out of Boston to Bogota and ended on March 14 at 12:00PM with a bus from Hartford to Boston.

From a logistical standpoint, at least, my trip to Peru wasn’t a vacation. But it certainly was a trip.

I called my mother a little before 9AM on March 3 and she told me to check my flights to Peru to ensure that there weren’t any delays on account of the recent winter storm on the east coast. Lo and behold, my 11:45PM flight to Bogota had been delayed to the following morning at 6:00AM, meaning I would miss my connecting flight from Bogota to Cuzco.

Just as I was getting off the phone with my mother and was looking up the number to call my airline, Avianca, the airline ended up calling me — not to tell me about my delayed flight from Boston to Bogota, but to tell me that my March 4 flight from Bogota to Cuzco (which I’d have missed anyway because of my not being able to get to Bogota quickly enough) had been cancelled entirely. Because there was only one flight a day with Avianca from Bogota to Cuzco, they would have to rebook me for the March 5 flight.

Suddenly, I had to do the following:

  1. Call my tour company and tell them I would be late to join my Inca Trail group.
  2. Figure out a way to get to my Inca Trail group once I arrived in Cuzco.
  3. See if my travel insurance would cover any of the unexpected expenses I would not have to incur for food, lodging, and transportation.
  4. Get a hotel room in Bogota and figure out a decent way to burn a night in Colombia

Since the local office for my tour company was effectively closed until Monday at 9:00AM, I couldn’t completely resolve items 1 and 2, but was able to resolve items 3 and 4 by the late afternoon. After learning that my travel insurance would cover $200 per diem on account of the missed connecting flight, I booked myself an inexpensive hotel near the Bogota airport and poked my Facebook friend universe for recommendations on things to do in the area.

By the time I flew in, I had a friend from business school waiting to pick me up at the airport and take me to an awesome lunch at a health food restaurant with gluten-free options called Deraiz. I had a spirulina almond milk latte and a quinoa vegetable bowl. The food made me feel like I was in LA, the vibe of the restaurant made me feel like I was in Europe and the company of my friend David made me feel like I was back in business school in Cambridge. All in all, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon, and very much unexpected, since I was supposed to be in Peru already.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d have guessed this was from Sweetgreen, not a random vegan eatery in Colombia

Normally, when I travel to a new city, I spend the day aggressively wandering the streets and getting lost. But because the weather in Bogota that day was extremely rainy and because I’d been awake since 3AM to fly to Bogota (and had a 4AM wake up for my flight to Cuzco the following morning), I didn’t do very much after lunch aside from take a quick stroll around Usaquen market and hop in an Uber to my hotel.

The next morning, I tested out using Priority Pass access, which came with my credit card, and was pleasantly surprised by the facility. In addition to tea and yogurt and a few gluten-free-friendly snacks, the lounge also had a hair/nail salon, which I probably would have considered using were I going directly to the wedding and not about to spend the following four days hiking in the relative wilderness.

The hallway of the very swanky lounge in Bogota’s airport

In the two hours remaining before my flight, I sat and read one of the three books I’d brought on the trip: Italo Calvino’s ‘The Castle of Crossed Destinies,’ which I’d describe as a magical realism version of the Canterbury Tales in which all the storytellers have lost the power of speech and must tell their tales exclusively by using tarot cards.

The book was a very appropriate for the group I was about to join in Peru: sixteen strangers from around the world, each with very different lives and stories, all soon to be bound together by the experience of hiking the Inca Trail…

Click here to read Part 2: From Cuzco to “Camino del Inca”.

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Quitter of the corporate grind in favor of the open road, a writing career, and a whole lot of jiu-jitsu. Currently writing from San Diego.

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Erica Zendell

Quitter of the corporate grind in favor of the open road, a writing career, and a whole lot of jiu-jitsu. Currently writing from San Diego.